Are States Changing Course on Teacher Evaluation?
Annual teacher evaluations were traditionally based on information from a single source: observations from principals.
Starting in 2009, a confluence of factors led to more than two dozen states stiffening their teacher-evaluation requirements. That year, TNTP (formerly the New Teacher Project) published a seminal report called "The Widget Effect," which found that 99 percent of all teachers were being rated as "satisfactory." Policymakers and education leaders began questioning the validity of evaluation systems that failed to distinguish among teachers.
The Obama administration began its Race to the Top program toward the end of that year. The competitive-grant program offered states financial incentives to include student-test data in their evaluation systems.
At about the same time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began pouring millions of dollars into studying teacher quality. (Education Week currently receives financial support from the Gates Foundation for coverage of continuous improvement strategies in education.) The foundation's high-profile "Measures of Effective Teaching" studywas among the largest randomized experiments of its kind, collecting data on 3,000 teachers across six large districts in order to compare different methods for gauging teacher performance.
And then there were the waivers. Starting in 2011, the U.S. Department of Education began offering states relief from some of the stringent requirements in what was then the main federal education law, the No Child Left Behind Act. (Among other provisions, the law mandated that all students perform at grade level in reading and math by 2014.) To get that flexibility—which most states ultimately did—states had to commit to linking student-achievement outcomes to their teacher-evaluation systems.
With all those incentives in place, the number of states using student-growth data in their evaluations skyrocketed, going from just 15 states in 2009 to 43 at the end of 2015, according to NCTQ.
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